Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse switches between zone, man-to-man defense to shut down Pannell in upset win over Cornell

Spencer Bodian | Staff Photographer

Cornell attack Rob Pannell was held to just one goal on 11 shots during Syracuse's upset of the No. 2 Big Red.

Rob Pannell’s four-point performance would have been a career night for some players. But not for Pannell, the country’s third leading scorer. Not for the player Syracuse head coach John Desko called “arguably the best in the country” the day before.

No. 7 Syracuse (8-2, 2-1 Big East) came away with a scintillating 13-12 win over No. 2 Cornell (10-2, 4-0 Ivy) at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night. After a sluggish start in which it allowed four goals in the game’s first five and a half minutes, the Syracuse defense contained Cornell’s explosive offensive attack in the final three quarters. Brian Megill guarded Pannell at times and the Orange used a zone in other stretches to hold Pannell to just one goal on 11 shots.

“It’s always fun to go up against the best to test yourself,” Pannell said. “He held me scoreless after the first quarter, so credit to him and the Syracuse defense.”

Pannell came into the game averaging 5.4 points per game, having tallied 26 goals and 33 assists. He scored nine points against Hobart earlier in the season and six against Syracuse two years ago.

During the opening quarter on Wednesday, it appeared Pannell would have another monster game. He assisted on three of the Big Red’s first four goals as Cornell jumped out to an early 4-0 lead by the 9:38 mark.

His first assist came on a man-up opportunity. Syracuse long-stick midfielder Peter Macartney was whistled for an illegal body check. Less than a minute later, Pannell found Steve Mock, the nation’s leading goal-scorer, who scored on a lefty shot from the right side.

Cornell was feisty and efficient early on. Syracuse was lethargic and bewildered.

It was exactly what the Orange had feared. Pannell to Mock, then Pannell to John Hogan, then Pannell to Connor Buczek. Pannell dominated the game and the Orange had no answer. Megill and the rest of the defense simply couldn’t contain him.

“Rob’s a great player,” Megill said. “I said going into this game we were going to have to limit his points as a defensive unit. He’s going to get his points, and he did, but I think we came out slow.”

Cornell, meanwhile, did anything but. After goals by Syracuse’s Scott Loy and Henry Schoonmaker cut the deficit to two, Pannell scored his only goal of the game with 4:51 left in the first quarter on a rebound off of a Matt Donovan shot.

But that was the last time Pannell would score or assist on a goal all night.

Syracuse switched into a zone after allowing the first four goals of the game, and Pannell’s production dwindled immediately. Wherever he went, there was a Syracuse defender to cut off his path toward the crease.

The Orange embarked on a 4-1 run, capped by goals from Billy Ward and Luke Cometti early in the second quarter. Pannell was silenced. So was Cornell’s entire offense.

“Cornell came out on fire, like they do in many of their games this year,” Desko said. “They got some early goals. We jumped into a zone just to try and slow the tempo down.”

Syracuse flip-flopped between zone and man-to-man defense during the second half. When SU was in man, Megill said he tried to stay on Pannell’s hands. He knew heading into the matchup that he couldn’t go for Pannell’s stick because the ball would never come out.

“Rob’s the best in the game at it,” Megill said. “He always knows when the ball’s in his stick. He’s got great handles.”

So instead, with help from David Hamlin, Sean Young and the rest of the Orange defense, Megill played Pannell’s body and shut him down. The failed slides and miscommunication that haunted Syracuse in the first quarter became a distant memory.

Cornell outshot Syracuse 20-6 in the opening quarter, but the Orange outshot the Big Red 31-27 the rest of the way. All of the holes in Syracuse’s porous defense were patched and SU came away with the statement come-from-behind win.

“Personally, they were quick to double to me and did a great job there,” Pannell said. “Megill’s a great defenseman. We were able to put the ball in the net, but after scoring six in the first quarter, we scored six the rest of the game. It was a great job by Syracuse’s defense.”

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